By contrast with the morning, the few hours spent at BETT in the afternoon are a come down of sorts. Actually that’s not strictly fair, for one of the seminars is truly inspirational and the kind of thing you wish was being trumpeted from the rooftops. Or was at least given prominence as a Keynote for the whole damn shindig. Actually the two afternoon seminars show two sides of the approaches to ICT these days. In one, ‘What does good ICT look like?’, there are the usual rumblings about the importance of teaching young people about file management and the teaching of ‘skills’ with specific software packages (death by Powerpoint, Word and Excel). There is talk of needing ‘specialist ICT teachers’ to deliver ICT teaching, which seems at odds with the views of some (our own LEA ICT advisor amongst them) who suggest that the best ICT teaching is currently being delivered by non-ICT specialists. There is insistence on discrete ICT teaching and there being allocated time for that in the timetable. All very grey. All very safe and dull.
On the other side of the coin, there is the inspirational presentation by someone from Headworks, who passionately argues the case for students learning best through doing and making rather than consuming; for choice and immediacy; for collaboration and social networking as a learning environment rather than behemoth ‘learning platforms’. It’s a seductive argument, and I suppose I feel strongly about it because I hear him talking about things I’ve been pushing to implement in school for some time. Things like using Flickr and blogs; opening up network access and teaching responsible behaviour rather than trying to ban services or block sites. “Connections not content” was one of his mantras, and it’s a good one. It’s not about the content of the teaching activities on a whiteboard, it’s about the learning connections students make with each other and the wider world. It’s about what they DO and about what they MAKE. I like how this ties neatly into the idea of making connections between things which we have for so long pushed in our Art curriculum. “Powerpoint is not a learning tool” is another mantra, and that’s one I particularly like. The key to successful use of ICT in teaching and learning is not in how we use it to present ‘facts’ to our students, but is rather in how those young people use their technologies to make sense of what they are learning.
Oh, and apologies for anyone looking for pontifications about Pop music. Normal service (whatever the hell that is) will be resumed soon. Ish. Maybe.